Blockstream, a prominent and influential Bitcoin technology startup, has introduced a service designed to make setting up a node on the cryptocurrency’s Lightning Network a snap.
Known as Greenlight, the service allows users to maintain complete control over their funds while setting up a Lightning node using the company’s cloud infrastructure, Blockstream said. The private keys for both on-chain and off-chain transactions never leave the custody of the user; rather, users interact with their nodes via a simple user interface managed by Blockstream.
The Lightning Network has seen torrid growth over the past couple of months and has become easier to use as well with the introduction of apps like Jack Mallers’ Strike. Greenlight’s simple interface promises to attract more users.
Referred to as a “second layer” system, Lightning is designed to enable microtransactions that may be too costly and slow to execute on the Bitcoin blockchain during periods of high network traffic. If widely adopted, it could make BTC more practical for everyday payments (think cups of coffee).
But the Lightning software can be bewildering for neophytes. Many non-technical enthusiasts often find themselves trusting a third-party service operator with their private keys in return for a simpler setup, undermining one of the chief selling points of Bitcoin: control over one’s money.
“Getting started with Lightning can be a challenge for some, especially the more technical aspects like operating channels or creating backups and watchtowers,” said Christian Decker, core tech engineer at Blockstream. With Greenlight, the company aims to give users the best of both worlds.
Greenlight is built on top of c-lightning, an implementation of the Lightning Network protocol optimized for performance and extendibility. Blockstream has been very public about its support for c-lightning in the past.
The company said it believes c-lightning’s can keep transaction fees low; however, Greenlight also allows users to “share” a node, hence sharing fee costs.
Greenlight is intended to be user-friendly and educational for potential Lightning users or even just hobbyists. Some developers are hamstrung by the fact that they are unable to run their own nodes, Blockstream said. Greenlight is intended to break that barrier and allow for more development.
The service is available on the Sphinx and Lastbit Lightning payment apps and will be released to the public over time. During this rollout period, Greenlight will be free to use.